“El Nuevo [Mundo] no se parece á el Viejo”: Racial Categories and the Practice of Seeing

by Magali M. Carrera


Magali M. Carrera examines culturally-located looking as a critical component of the trans-Atlantic pre-history of race. Specifically, Carrera explores the formation of historically specific practices of seeing that structured how the people who inhabited New Spain would be differentiated from the people of Spain. Initially conceptualized through an idiom of spatial orientation, this practice of seeing would be transformed through Spanish mapping traditions and information-gathering. As a result, a paradigm for the visualization of cultural and human differences between Spain and New Spain was firmly established in administrative literature by the eighteenth century. At mid-century, however, José Antonio, de Villaseñor, a New Spanish writer of geography, challenged metropolitan-centered visualizations of New Spain and began to construct a New Spain-located viewer. Consequently, rather than searching for evidence or artifacts of race or racialization, Carrera investigates the historical formation of a practice—vision/seeing—that underlies the identification of human difference.

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